Beautiful Walk to the Rio Grande

A sweet cloudy day with a breeze, what to do, what to do. Hmmm. I look at my roommates who just got their Barkbox and are very distracted. “What do you think, guys?”

Suddenly I had two very alert dogs. Within the next 15 minutes we were at the Rio Grande Wildlife Area on a trail that has — for me — been mostly a late fall/early winter walk. Hunting season for waterfowl starts in three weeks and the first month of that pretty much precludes me rambling around out there. Usually by December the birds have flown (except raptors!) and it’s one of my favorite winter walks.

To my North is the wildlife area — a slough that comes off the Rio Grande, a waterfowl paradise. To the South is a fence along a pasture about 1/2 mile from the river most of the way. The trail intersects the Rio Grande after about a mile and it’s a beautiful spot. I did a watercolor of it last winter:

Rio Grande, partially frozen, January 2019

We walked there today. Part of the trail was not well-mown and the grass was almost to my knees. Teddy was fascinated by the nether-areas of bushes lining the trail. I tried to suppress my rattlesnake paranoia, but then I thought, “Why? It’s not completely stupid to keep an eye on the trail.”

It’s not stupid. In fact, it’s a good idea.

What a great walk. I was very happy to see “my” river from my favorite spot, while the trees, grass, bushes, reeds are still mostly green with summer and, especially, on this, the anniversary of leaving my beloved stone house in Descanso, California and beginning the trek home. I had the sense as I wandered this now familiar and yet new landscape that I am now fully home and this is my world. ❤

Five Years After

On this day five years ago I began the journey home to Colorado. Just at dark, I locked up my house in Descanso, CA and headed the 30 miles down the hill to San Diego. The next day, I would be renting a van at the airport, and turning over my car to a guy who would transport it, but that night I spent in a motel near San Diego State. Lily and Dusty went to a boarding kennel for two nights and Mindy went to stay with her two friends, Bailey and Reina at my friend’s house.

On my way down the hill, I stopped at McDonalds and got a Happy Meal (the best deal if all you want is a cheeseburger, fries and a drink) and I ate it on the way.

I was in a kind of exhausted catatonic state, numbed by necessity. It’s only been in the last year that I have allowed myself to “miss” California where I lived for 30 years.

What do I miss? Mostly I miss the “friendly mountains.” I’d hoped that hiking here would prove great, but it hasn’t, and I doubt it will. Even when I lived here in my youth, I didn’t hike in the Rockies much. The “Friendly Mountains” were far more accessible than the mountains around me now. I’ve thought of returning with the dogs to visit them in December for a few days.

Lots of people hike in the Rockies all the time, but (as I should have remembered) good hikes require overnights and better legs than I have. The “Friendly Mountains” also have no bears and that’s a very nice feature if you don’t want do deal with them. I like bears, but a person hiking alone doesn’t really want to deal with that possibility. Also, I don’t really have pals to hike with consistently — and, when you hike with other people (though I enjoy it very much) the people are the main part of the experience, not nature.

In the “Friendly Mountains” I could get to the top of a “high” mountain within an hour and, from there, I could look down 7000 feet to the desert floor. Weather phenomena was amazing at the convergence the Mediterranean ocean climate where I began a hike and the desert where I might end one.

I’ve learned in these five years that the Rockies are for me to look at. The valley floor itself is a pretty friendly place for a solitary woman with arthritic knees, which makes this the best place I could be. I’ve been learning to see the wetlands in all their stunning diversity. I was already tuned to the miles and miles of the Big Empty, vistas of awe-striking immensity, ringed by mountains. ❤

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/09/17/rdp-tuesday-missing/

Rambling Post about Something, maybe Mindfulness?

We humans make a lot of choices — and pursue hobbies, interests — that, by their nature, silence the jumble in our minds. I’m not a climber but I’ve known enough climbers and done enough boldering (sometimes a little more) to understand how climbing pretty much eliminates anything from your thoughts except getting up safely and back down again (safely).

What I loved about hiking in the days when I could hike for hours and hours was that after a while something happened in my head and there was nothing left in there but the trail, whatever was happening in the natural world in those moments and my dogs. A lifetime of hiking habits has trained my mind so that even though now I don’t hike 12 miles a day, I can get into the “zone” pretty quickly, even riding the sainted “bike-to-nowhere.”

Several years ago, back in California when I had a shed that was a little art studio, I discovered that painting was the same thing. Out there — away from my house (only 10 feet or so) and focused on a canvas, panel or paper — all that mattered was the work I was doing and where it was taking me. Writing a good story can be the same.

It’s such a relief from all the stuff that clutters the inside of my head.

Yesterday — a cool, cloudy day, presaging fall — we headed out for a walk. I decided to take the trail along the Rio Grande. It was the first time this year because the pathway in was very overgrown in tall grass and weeds. I noticed yesterday that a few people have trodden down the plant life a little bit, so I parked, took out the dogs and made them walk behind me, single file — a new “trick” for Teddy.

I love the Rio Grande, and it’s fascinating to watch throughout the year. I have never lived beside a mostly-wild river before. The trail along the river is wide enough for an ATV cowboy to ride along which is good for me and the hounds. Most of the way the river runs alongside it. The sound fascinated Teddy who had never heard a river before — it was a little difficult to keep him where I wanted him, next to me. It seems like rattlesnakes are not very common down here on the floor of the San Luis Valley along the river, but years of hiking with them as an ambient part of the environment has made me very vigilant about the nether parts of the bushes lining a trail.

The cottonwoods are still mostly green. The wild asparagus is beginning to turn the glowing gold of fall. The milkweed is between seasons. It was a sweet walk. In the act of observing the natural world and noting the changes, the jumble clears.

We even have a word for this nowadays, “mindfulness.” I hate that word and all that is behind it, one more thing to add to our list of “shoulds.” I hate the way the outside has come to be regarded, too, like it’s someplace to go because it will “heal” you. To me, that turns nature into just one more commodity. Nature isn’t a “commodity” and it doesn’t exist to “teach us mindfulness” or heal us. Conceptually that’s one more step in the distancing of humans from the reality that WE are nature. It’s not “out there” it’s INSIDE, and that means we — consciously or unconsciously — play an active part.

I recently read that the elk population up on Vail Pass has declined by a drastic percentage not because of hunting or predation, but because more people are “going into nature” in elk habitat.

“…there’s been a dramatic increase in backcountry use in the past decade. Bertuglia noted that trail use in the Vail area has doubled since 2009. There’s 30 percent more overnight use in the same period.” Vail Daily

All this human traffic disturbs the elk’s breeding grounds. Without “privacy” in an undisturbed world, elk don’t breed. Wildlife managers close the area, but people ignore the closures believing, I guess, that their “right” to go into nature trumps nature’s right to be alone.

My wildlife area closes in March and doesn’t re-open until mid-July. Those are beautiful hiking months, and I wish I could go there but I don’t. The water birds nest there during that time and have for millennia, I imagine. I don’t doubt for one minute that just one person — just me — with two leashed dogs, could be enough to disturb that. It seems to me that “mindfulness” more properly means being aware of the consequences of our existence.

Chamisa, cottonwoods, fall approaching…

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/rdp-monday-jumble/

A Gift

My Aunt Dickie — my mom’s youngest sister — was definitely her own person. Somehow, she liked me very much. I’ve thought since that as kids are growing up, they don’t know what adults see in them. The first mysterious experience I had with my Aunt Dickie was after my Aunt Kelly died. All this was sometime in the late 1970’s.

Aunt Kelly lived in New Mexico, Aunt Dickie in Montana and my mom and Aunt Martha in Denver. Aunt Dickie and Uncle Bob drove down in their motor home, picked up my mom and aunt, and went down to New Mexico together to the funeral.

I went over to my mom’s that afternoon to help her pack. I was going to stay at her condo and take care of Misty, the geriatric miniature white poodle of unparalleled courage, the heroic dog of song and saga. “Bob says we an only take as much stuff as fits in a boot box.” She was sorting clothes to fit into that comparatively small space.

The doorbell rang and my Aunt Martha came in, an overnight bag in her hand. “That wasn’t easy,” she said. My mom and aunt were very sad. Aunt Kelly had been their friend and champion in their childhood and they loved her very much. They started talking about Aunt Dickie’s complicated relationship with my Aunt Kelly. As the youngest of 10 kids, Dickie had grown up in a different world than my mom, Aunt Martha and Aunt Kelly. The older kids had contributed to the well being of the large family. Aunt Dickie had had piano lessons, gone to the prom, been a cheerleader — all things that Kelly, Martha and my mom could never have done during the impoverished years of the Depression when their only income had come from my grandma driving the horse drawn school bus and my grandfather’s not-all-that successful farming. The way I heard it during dinner-table talks, they would have starved if they hadn’t grown their own food.

My Aunt Dickie’s life had been a little different.

My Aunt Kelly had a heart as big as the world but, in a way, she was very stern and narrow in her thinking. I loved her — we were close, her daughter was my “big sister” when I was little — but there was something sour and repressed about her. I could imagine plenty of battles between my Aunt Kelly and my Aunt Dickie during Aunt Dickie’s teen years.

Aunt Martha and my mom weren’t sure how Dickie was going to take Aunt Kelly’s death. I had heard my mom say, “They never really got along.”

Uncle Bob and Aunt Dickie finally arrived. Mom, Aunt Martha and Misty all clustered at the front door to welcome them. There was much, “How was the drive?” conversation. They’d driven from Billings to Denver in one day, 12 hours, and the plan was to keep going to New Mexico that night. If they got tired they would pull off the road and sleep in the motorhome.

My mom wasn’t sure about this plan and said, “You can stay here the night and we can go early in the morning, if you’re tired.”

I was standing in the living room, quite a distance from the entry way. Suddenly I saw my Aunt Dickie had broken away from the group discussion and was heading my way.

This woman was not “touchy-feely.” She didn’t say “I love you” to her kids or anyone. For good reasons, she was very self-contained. The story was that you didn’t talk to her before she’d had her morning coffee, and that was true. I’m the same in that. You can imagine how surprised I was when I found my Aunt Dickie in my arms, her head on my shoulder. “I’m so sad about Kelly, Martha Ann.”

Why could she tell me?

I hugged her and didn’t say anything. It was bewildering, but somehow I felt complimented, as you feel when a dog who’s afraid of people comes to you for friendship.

Over the many years that followed I came to understand that my Aunt Dickie simply loved me. There’s no “why” for that, no “how.” It is a gift.

P.S. The photo is my Aunt Jo and Aunt Dickie at the family house in Hardin Montana, sometime in the late 1920s.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/rdp-sunday-talk/

A Simple Walk

“It’s hot you guys. I thought we’d go later.

Jumping around. Yearning eyes. Back and forth to the back door. More yearning eyes. Puppy pose, which is “dog” for “Please!!!!”

“Seriously?”

Paw on my leg.

“OK.”

Out the backdoor. Peeking inside to see “Does she mean it?” Relief when they see I’m putting on my shoes.

“C’mere, Teddy. Get your coat on. Teddy sits and patiently waits until his harness is buckled together. I clip a little LED light to the front for night walking. It’s not night, but evening before last, I wished I’d had done that. I recently got him a leash that attaches to a belt I wear around my waist. It works, it’s handy but it doesn’t have the simplicity of a leather lead.

I load my pockets with wallet and cell phone and we’re off. But where? As I drive by the lake, I see it’s empty of people. “Maybe?” Then I think, “Shriver/Wright?” but someone’s there, and. here in Heaven I have the luxury of NOT walking where there are other people — at least of starting a walk without other people around. Someone is there, I turn around and look over at the larger wildlife area to my left, “Hmmmm….” Last time it was very unpleasant. Millions of horseflies and heat, but today?

I drive up the dirt road under the cottonwood trees and park in the empty parking lot. Hunting season for waterfowl doesn’t start until October 8 or so.

Out come the dogs and we hit the trail.

It’s beautiful, a late summer day with a light cool breeze blowing in my face. I know when I turn around and face the sun, it won’t be as pleasant but live in the moment, right?

The whole Rio Grande wetland world is green. A couple of ducks cruise slowly over the surface of one of the slough’s bigger ponds. To my right, across the irrigation canal, is a herd of beautiful black Angus cattle. I stop to watch them. One of them notices me, takes a few steps forward, toward me, and stops. I hear my mom in my head, “Cattle are so curious.” It’s true. Unless there are calves involved in need of protection, they ARE curious. I hear a voice in the distance and see the most distant steers begin a slow trudge toward a barn. I think of my mom, again, and how, long ago, we sometimes, drove out of Denver to a spot that’s now under C470, where we watched a herd of cattle line up and walk home in the evening. Raised on a farm in Montana, she loved being outdoors, but she would not go alone and so she lived more-or-less trapped by fear in her condos. 23 years after her death, she’s still a mystery to me.

Teddy is VERY curious. He smells the cattle; he can’t see them for the willows that block his view.

There is no sign of autumn anywhere along the cottonwood horizon by the river, but the flowers are done. The sunflowers are brown and filled with seeds. Summer’s lavender/pink bee flowers are nothing but a memory. The milkweed pods have mostly opened their dry husks and sent the future off on the wind. It is Chamisa season and they are covered with yellow blossoms. I think that along the river the wild asparagus might be golden then think, “No, not yet.”

We can’t go far. I didn’t bring water and Bear is a snow dog and Teddy is black, so at .65 miles we turn around. The sun blasts my face and I put on my sunglasses, but they are really no help. A hat would’ve been smart, though. From time to time I turn back into the cool breeze and take in the view. Teddy is learning how to walk with Bear and me.

Training a dog is mostly a matter of doing the same thing in the same way over and over. You don’t think of it, but if you leash your dog and walk with him/her at a certain distance from your leg, pretty soon the dog gets it. “I walk here,” and that’s what they do. Bear likes to stop on walks and smell the air. I like to stop and look at scenery. These stops often involve Bear leaning against me and yesterday, we stopped, and my little Teddy, 25 pounds of energy and enthusiasm, leaned against my left leg as Bear, 75 pounds of calm and ferocity, leaned against my right. I thought, looking at barren Mt. Blanca under a thunderhead, “This is pretty good,” and that was an understatement.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/09/14/rdp-saturday-simplicity/

Mid-Autumn Festival

Quiet Night Thoughts
Li Bai, Tang Dynasty (1300 years ago…)

床前明月光
疑是地上霜
举头望明月
低头思故乡

Moonlight before my bed
Like frost on the ground.
Lifting my head, I see the moon,
Lowering my head, I miss my home.

***

The canals between the rows of cabbages reflect the full moon. I ride my “Wu Yang,” a locally made “Five Rams” bike. Flash, flash, flash—the moon, the dark, the moon, the dark, the moon shines from the still water. Beside me dark lorries roll, their headlights dimmed. The bicycle has the right of way. Mist sifts across the road between the white-painted trunks of eucalyptus trees. The moon in south China is not the moon anywhere else. Even poets have said so.

“Teacher, why are you smiling?”

“Because I’m here. I’m teaching and I’m in China.”

“You’re smiling because you are here? Or do you laugh at our poor English?”

I am stunned. “You speak English well.”

“No, no we don’t. We know our English is very poor.”

“No, truly, it’s very good.”

“You are being kind. Our English is poor.”

I do not yet know about the trap of Chinese humility.

“Don’t you miss your home?”

I think momentarily of the Rocky Mountains and a few friends, but no. Ever since reading Richard Halliburton’s travel adventure books from my mother’s library I have wanted to go on “the royal road to romance.” That my first road led to a Chinese university was a stroke of good luck I never could have imagined. I smile constantly and this makes my students suspicious.

“I’m happy. I love China. I love to teach.”

“How can you love China and love America?”

What is patriotism? My own country could not possibly give me THIS opportunity. I am my own world.

“I love them both.”

“And us?”

I look behind me at the large character poster above the chalkboard. “Noble Spirit, Proud Beauty,” it says in English.

***

“The Moon Festival is the festival of distant family and friends,” I am told by one of my graduate students. “The Chinese eat round things because they look like the moon. The children carry moon-shaped lanterns. We recite poetry and think of people far away. We know our relatives and friends at home are doing the same, so though we are far away from each other, we look at the same moon. You will love it.” 

Outside the door to my apartment I find an ornately decorated box. Inside are mooncakes, a gift from my students. They are filled with red bean paste with a perfect round egg yolk in the center. The moon.

***

Just a week later I take the train to Hong Kong to meet up with two friends from Colorado, one a wealthy old man I am fond of; the other is my former boss who is traveling with him. My old friend was born in China, near Tianjin. His father was a missionary for the YMCA. His family left China during the Japanese invasion. The old man sends me out to find some cotton undershirts for him and a cane. He has just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and walking is increasingly difficult. On my way back to the ship, I stop in a bakery and buy mooncakes. When I hand him the brightly printed shopping bag with its picture of the Moon Goddess, Chang O, his eyes glow with pleasure. “Oh my, oh, Martha! Mooncakes! I have not had these since I was a child.” Time and memory distill in his blue eyes and slide down his channeled cheeks. His hand reaches for mine.

***

There is no way for me to go back. Even the boy who carried my heavy trunk up three flights of stairs to my apartment is now a man in his sixties who writes me from Toronto telling me how Qi-Gong helps him with his aches and pains. I remember his stories of the Cultural Revolution when he was sent north to work in a machine shop in Luoyang. He spent ten years in mind-numbing drudgery staying up late to learn English from the Voice of America. His ancestry was mixed, his mother bourgeois, his father a poor peasant, a Party member. When the Gang of Four was overthrown, he was too old for college, so he worked as an interpreter, assistant, and spy for the Wai-Shi Ban, Foreigner’s Office, at my university. I helped him come to the U.S. to study and he got a B.A. from NYU. 

“Dear Sister,” he writes in an email. “You are a better Chinese than me. I forgot Mid-Autumn Festival! Thank you for your good wishes!”

***

Time and space are not convergent only at the outer edge of the universe; they converge everywhere, every moment. I search the Internet looking for cheap tickets to China. I imagine going back when I retire, but with perfect certainty I know there is no way. 

China is a bus on which I am riding that has stopped for no reason on Chong-Shan Wu Lu (5 Sun Yat-Sen Road) in downtown Guangzhou on a late spring afternoon. Through the window I see a public telephone. It is an old black phone on a wooden desk in front of a building. A Chinese man in glasses and a white shirt sits behind the desk taking tickets from people waiting for their turn to make a call to someone far away. In the shadows, I notice a tall, dignified, white-haired, blue-eyed, white man in a blue silk padded coat. He is leaning against a building as all the raging race of China’s modernization passes in front of him. We make eye contact for a fraction of a second before he abruptly turns and goes inside. That is China; that man, that blue coat, that furtive moment, and now it is something else.

*Originally published in Business Communication Quarterly Volume: 70 issue,188-191 June 1, 2007. Now included in As a Baby Duck Listens to Thunder.

Reunion

“I HATE going out with you and your troglodyte friends,” said Cammie, scrutinizing her acrylic nails. “Do you like them?”

She held up ten miniature American flags for Justin to judge.

“Stupid and expensive and, Cammie, you can’t even open a bag of chips with those hands any more.”

“Whatever.”

“We’re going to ride go-karts, c’mon, Cam. You used to think that was fun!

Cammie sat silently for a moment. She actually DID think it was fun. But…

“Yeah, in high school. We’re too old for that now.”

“You’re only as old as you feel, sweet cheeks. Age is just a number. Oh, I didn’t tell you. Tony’s coming.”

“Tony Lamontino?”

“Yeah. He’s back from Nepal.”

Justin knew perfectly well that Tony Lamontino was Cammie’s first love. He’d always suspected she’d only married him because he was Tony’s best friend. Cammie took another look at her patriotic digits.

“I bet you want to come with me and my troglodyte friends now,” said Justin, a tiny, bitter edge in his voice.

“Will you see Tony again?”

“No. He’s off to New York in the morning.”

Cammie thought for a moment. Tony Lamontino. He was so beautiful with his dark hair, blue eyes, muscular chest, wide grin, adventurous spirit. There was no one like him in the senior class at Campbell Grover High School. He’d taken her to the prom. Her mind drifted back to the sweet pink dress she’d worn, the bundle of tiny pink roses on her wrist. They’d danced, dance after dance, the last dance, “It’s you and me and all other people/And I don’t know why, I can’t keep my eyes off of you.” Tony’s gentleness and the care he took of her, not pressing any sexual advances after the prom but saying, “It’s too sweet a moment for that. And you’re too pretty for me to rumple up in the back seat of my car.”

“OK. I’ll go.”

She went to the bathroom to fix her make-up and hair. She looked at herself carefully and critically in the mirror. The lighter blond highlights were good, definitely, she thought. Yeah, she’d put on a few pounds but she was still hot, no question. She was glad those butt-crack revealing bell-bottoms jeans were over, that’s for sure. No one kept their high school figure, did they? She dug her light blue sweater out of her drawer and pulled it over her white t-shirt and jeans. Cute. Definitely cute. No one would think, “Thirty.”

They were a little late and everyone was already there when they arrived, all of Justin’s high school pals and their wives. Tony stood at one end next to an exotic looking black guy Cammie had never seen. “Who’s that?” she asked Justin.

“Oh, that’s Tony’s husband, Jacques. They met in Paris.”

I promise some day to try to write a love story with a happy ending. 🙂

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/09/12/rdp-thursday-troglodyte/

Is it Worth Reading?

Here it is, September 11, again. People are posting here and everywhere (I imagine) about remembering the events of this date in 2001.

Why? It certainly did not wake us up and make us better people or more aware of our place as a nation in the WORLD. Following on the fall of the twin towers, we had a president who committed war crimes and can barely even leave the US, he’s so wanted by other nations for the evil he sanctioned during what I can only call his “reign.”

I still don’t think anyone really knows HOW it happened or really WHO did it.

Ultimately, it all seemed to have been pre-visioned by Douglas Adams in his Hitchhiker’s Guide Trilogy (of four books…). It all seems to me like the Krikkit Wars and the US is Krikkit.

Krikkit is am immensely xenophobic planet. The people of Krikkit are just a bunch of really sweet guys who just happen to want to kill everybody.

The first Krikkit attack on the Galaxy had been stunning. Thousands and thousands of huge Krikkit warships had leaped suddenly out of hyperspace and simultaneously attacked thousands and thousands of major worlds, first seizing vital material supplies or building the next wave, and then calmly zapping those worlds out of existence.

The planet of Krikkit was sentenced by the Galactic Court to be encased for perpetuity in an envelope of Slo-Time, inside which life would continue almost infinitely slowly. All light would be deflected around the envelope so that it would remain invisible and impenetrable. Escape from the envelope would be utterly impossible unless it was unlocked from the outside.

That morning I was driving to school and listening to the classical music station that broadcast out of Tijuana. I didn’t even know about the events until I arrived and everyone was going around “Did you hear? My God! Isn’t it horrible?”

Yes, it was.

Class was held as usual but students were so distracted it was difficult to teach. Smart phones didn’t exist, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the US had been attacked.

After class, I went to my job at the school’s writing tutorial center. Everyone was talking about the attack (of course) and debating whether to turn on the TV. We were also waiting for the President of the college to announce that school was closed. Meanwhile, I worked thinking about how all my life the US has prepared for war. I grew up 2 miles from a large bevy of B-52s. “Peace is Our Profession” said the Strategic Air Command signs at every entrance to the base where my dad worked. I mostly just wanted everyone to shut up. The damage was done. Life goes on. I held my peace about that, though. I could already tell that Xenophobia would become the order of the day (week, year, culture). I’d lived in the People’s Republic of China soon after the Great Proletariat Culture Revolution, and I KNEW what could happen if “most” people got the “wrong” idea about a single dissenting individual.

I knew that real freedom was on the way out.

Just at the darkest moment of this dark day, one of my former students came in. He’d been 17 years old when he was in my first class, an intro to literature class. He’d never read poetry or studied literature before. His dad was from Germany. His mom was Mexican. He loved the class and it inspired him to read literature and write poetry. He also learned to love Goethe because of the class and to be interested in learning German and maybe going to visit his grandfather in Germany. So, in he walks, “Hey Martha! Is this any good?” He holds up Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther.

And I thought at that moment, “Yeah, the twin towers have been attacked, and the Pentagon, but the world holds to its eternal thread of beauty and here’s Schorsch to remind me of that which really matters.”

Meanwhile almost everyone else was watching the Twin Towers fall again and again and again and again; hypnotic, rage inducing.

The following days I was stunned by the kindness and gentleness of strangers in the grocery store, on the street, everywhere. I loved the silent hills over which the planes had stopped flying. Messages of condolence came in from all over the world expressing sorrow over the act of terrorism and (worse) the loss of innocent lives. The pace of life slowed and then, just as suddenly, there was Christmas music in the stores causing people to salivate heavily and buy things, the planes were back, people were taping a newspaper insert American flag to their front windows and wearing American flag lapel pins and (horribly) “REAL” Americans started attacking our local Chaldean businessmen in fits of stupid, fucking, ignorant fear and rage. A government agency was set up — a new cabinet position — “Homeland Security” and the “Patriot” act was passed making many of our Cold War nightmares come true. White powder in envelopes was feared to be anthrax and on and on and on… A new normal for us Krikkits.

Americans need to get out more both to SEE the world and BE SEEN.

On the big stage, Tony Blair and Dubbya and Chainy cooked up a fake case against Saddam (based largely on a dodgy doctoral dissertation Tony Blair had plagiarized). I stopped class the following March so we could watch, on TV, the first attack on Iraq.

So…I don’t know how to view 9/11. I’m very sorry for all the people who lost loved ones. I also think of all the people all over the world losing loved ones to terrorism here and there. Having lived in a neighborhood which was a haven for refugees (lots of Section 8 housing) I saw waves of disturbed, distressed and disheartened people from all over the world who were not in the US because it was their dream, but because it was their only hope of safety.

In 2004 I went to Italy where, after a young Swiss woman berated me angrily for the war in Iraq, I learned it would be wise of me to let people think I was German. It was an effective disguise, except, of course, in Germany itself.

Reposted from September 11, 2015

As a Baby Duck Listens to Thunder, B&W

Last night I was slapped by the obvious (yet again) and realized that while some people (me?) might value the color illustrations in As a Baby Duck Listens to Thunder there might be potential readers out there who want to read the book but don’t want to pay the (exorbitant) price Amazon has slapped on it as a result of the full-color illustrations AND my wanting the book available to the widest possible audience. I realized it would be pretty easy to put together a black and white edition.

I did that this morning. It’s not live on Amazon yet, but it should be, soon. The price tag is $12.50, a $40 break from the full-color version. Since the slides all exist on Youtube, it’s a very good deal.

Angels in the Outfield

Sometimes you have a bad(ish) day and you’re down in the dumps. You wait until 7 when the golf course is closed and you head out with your dogs through the miracle that is your town, destination the golf course and the big empty beyond. The Big Empty is the best doctor you know.

In the bad(ish) day you’ve forgotten the depth of that miracle or you haven’t put all the pieces together.

There on last two holes (at the end of your alley) are four young people playing golf and having the BEST time. They’re wearing cowboy hats and boots and whooping at their bad hits. The grass has just been mowed and it’s a little lumpy here and there from all the recent rain. A couple of women with a golden retriever approach and your dogs bark. You turn to walk around the high school because of the cars around the club house. You think, “There must be a lot of people playing.” Then you look into the course from behind the high school and you see no one is there.

You take Bear and Teddy through the “secret” way into the course, a shady part you don’t see much in summer but love in winter. You make the loop, walk past Mr. Martinez’ house, under the big trees and you hear a motor coming from the driving range which, this year, they’ve been watering and mowing. A guy on the mower comes toward you and the dogs and turns off the engine. You say, by way of staving off whatever might come out about dogs and all that, “It’s beautiful. You’ve done an amazing job.”

And then the guy tells you…

“Have you seen the nature trail I made over there by the ponds? It goes right along the water so you can see the ducks and geese.”

You’d seen it but you didn’t know it was part of the course.

“You can take your dogs there. There’s even a little dog park where they can run. Have you seen it? I put a ball throwing machine there so if your dogs fetch you don’t have to throw all the time.”

You point at Teddy, “He fetches. She doesn’t.”

“And you can go way out there. I made trails all over that field. Did you see the hammock I hung from Annie’s tree? I call it Annie’s tree.” (I later learn that’s his wife’s name) “You’re welcome to use the hammock.”

“I saw it. It’s beautiful. I took a picture of it. It just looked like summer to me.”

“Yeah, there are trails all along out here. You can go along the ditch, and meet up another trail I made out there so you don’t have to go on the road.”

I know all these trails. For the most part (since they involved walking through the golf course) they’re my winter trails.

“I walk a lot of places around here, but this is my favorite.”

“The views are incredible,” he said. “Anyway, this is all here now. You just go through right there.” He pointed to a small gap in the bushes. “You can get there from here.”

“I’ll try it tomorrow!”

It’s fast getting dark. “I’d better finish this,” he says, turning on the mower.

“Yeah, you’re losing your light.”

“Have a good night.”

“You too,” I say, and, “Thank you.”

I am talking to my angel. His name is Jeremy.

Last winter, when there was a mild brouhaha over dogs on the golf course, I never imagined a resolution like this. All this summer of exile from the golf course my angel has been setting it up for me, Bear and Teddy.

Where the new trails are ❤

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I think there might be guitars in this song which fits my story perfectly.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/09/10/rdp-tuesday-guitar/